Digital Die cutting machines

I know this is a forum about letterpress, but i was wondering (if it is not considered ‘blasphemous’ to ask) if anyone has had any experience using a digital cutter to pre-cut their stock to shapes (and sizes) for their letterpress work?

I know i know, you probably use proper dies etc but i am on an extreme budget and would prefer not to have to keep getting dies made elsewhere. Besides which, i don’t have a press big enough to handle die cutting (yet) It’d be really handy if i could just make a shape in say illustrator (or converted if need be) and nest it up onto my sheet and cut. Also better than ordering pre-cut stocks in terms of prices (obviously with some initial outlay on the machine first)

I have been reading reviews on a few (black cat cougar, boss cut, gazelle etc etc) but they are for hobby crafters and so I am not sure how they will take to the softer thicker stock (like lettra or similar). Have emailed a few places but thought it was also worth a try posting on here to see if anyone had any thoughts or had tried any of these or something different?

I have only a small adana by the way so I wouldn’t be working in printing massively high volumes…


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I think what you are wanting is laser cutting. It’s not necessarily cheap, but when you’re looking at a short run it’s much cheaper than traditional die cutting. I’ve worked with a company in New York, but their name escapes me at the moment. A google search for laser cutting might get you to the same place, and you might even find a local vendor that could help you. If you can’t locate anything, drop me a line and I’ll dig up the place I’ve dealt with.

Once faced with a rush-job to produce a Shamrock-shaped identification badge (obvious event) and stymied by a two-week wait for a die, I simply tightly clamped the stock (120wt) between two quarter-inch plywood pieces. This formed a ‘sandwich’ about two inches thick having the stock as filler. Then, using a fine-cut blade on my sabre saw, I simply cut out the shamrock shape, following the design drawn upon the upper piece of wood. There was a burned spot or two in the tight turns (sandpaper scuff erased those), and the progress was slow, but the cut was surprisingly clean. In fact, some pieces had a somewhat ‘rounded’ edge which enhanced the clover effect. Still, a die would have made that job actually pay. Come to think of it, it was probably that job prompting me to obtain my own die-former. :o)

I’m not really good with that kind of thing (kudos to you for improvising Forme!!) and I don’t have a lot of space or equipment.
What I more want to know is, if anyone has actually used those cutting systems I mentioned, what the outcome and thoughts were?

Thanks Anchor I’ll look into laser cutters but my thoughts were that they’d be above my price range and a little more on the industrial side… I’m in Australia too so due to crazy cost of shipping I’m kind of limited to what is here..

I don’t need it to do a lot at once, more just handle the stock. From what I’ve read the gazelle and the black cat cougar systems seem to work but as I said most of the reviews are from scrap booking and not specifically softer letterpress stocks..

This is the type of thing I’m looking at, just for home use,
Anyone have thoughts?

I don’t know any of those three machines specifically, but a while back I was looking at Sissix and Cricut machines for purposes similar to yours. These machines are pretty great for what they do. Being able to have this sort of technology at home still kind of blows my mind. Ultimately though, I didn’t take the plunge. The small issue was that they were pretty slow. Not a big deal, but if you wanted to cut 50-100 of something, it was going to take a good deal of time. The more intricate the cut, the longer it took. The bigger issue, and this one wasn’t something I found out until I really started talking to people, was consumables - mainly blades. There was a pretty significant cost to those, and users I spoke to gave me the sense that they did not last very long at all, and the heavier the paper stock, the faster they dulled. I got the sense that a small production run of 50-100 could potentially have me going through $20-40 in blades.

These issues might not apply to the machines you’re looking at as much, but I thought it might be worth mentioning, as the ones I was shopping for were created for the same market.

Sorry if it isn’t too helpful. Good luck!

Hi Anchor,

thanks! that is helpful and definitely something worthwhile considering! i think i will try and find more forums where people discuss the specific machines, surely i’m bound to come across something! (unfortunately as I said most people are using them for one off craft pieces and probably not runs of 50+ but I’ll keep searching)

Just loved the idea of having the freedom of doing that at home and easily changing shapes etc!

Hello! I’m a total newbie to letterpress, I just bought my first press a week ago and am in the process of trying to get it running. I actually didn’t even realize until a few months ago that you could do die cuts in a letterpress. Wow, I know, but it’s the truth.

I actually use the Silhouette Cameo for my die cutting. Yes, it is very tedious to do larger runs, but I’ve done it for cutting shapes from invites. I attached an image of a grape bunch that I just cut from invites and layered for a client, this was a run of 75 of them and it took me a little over an hour to cut them all. I looked into many options and for the money it made sense for me. I like the flexibility of being able to cut any shape I draw and I like being able to offer it as an option to my clients for a fraction of what I would have to charge if it was laser cut. The machine also takes up very little room in my studio. All that being said, had I had a letterpress before I purchased the cameo I might not have gone this route. I’m generally not a fan of things that just do one thing that is a novelty and I would imagine it is much faster to cut the shapes with a die on the letterpress.

All in all it has a little place in my studio and has paid for itself with the jobs I’ve used it for, so it’s not a bad product. It really is pretty amazing to be able to draw something and cut it in minutes. Owning it is just a teeny bit embarrassing as it is marketed for scrapbookers.


image: image.jpeg



The Silhouette Cameo looks like a great little machine for short runs, and working from a digital file rather than a steel rule die makes sense from a $$ perspective for very short run work.

Can you advise what your experience has been with cutting paper with the knife blades? Just wondered what the expected life of the blade is since they are a pretty expensive consumable if their life is short.

Have you done much with registering printed images to the cut?

John Henry


It really isn’t bad, you just have to be patient with it and play around with options until it cuts how you want it to. You’re right, for the $ it is a good option.

Blades aren’t too expensive, $10 a piece, and each has lasted me through a few jobs. I’m usually cutting 110lb ish weight on it. I haven’t tried cutting the lettra on it yet, but I’m sure it can handle it, you would just have to have the machine recut after the first pass. Hence the tedious side of this coin.

The image I attached was printed and then cut and I had no problem lining up the cut (which I think is what you were asking, let me know if I’m wrong).



I don’t totally follow your last post. Are you saying that it takes two passes to cut thick paper?




Yes, with thicker papers I have to have it cut once and then recut. It still makes a clean cut, but it takes 2 passes to get there.


Hey thanks for the feedback guys!
Elisabeth great to know you feel it’s worth it!
It is marketed to scrap bookers which is why I was asking,
But I think the benefits of having it readily available for small runs outweighs the cost of blades. (and the ‘embarrassment’ of owning one! ;)

Keep us posted if and when you do cut lettra on it!
I’d be curious to see if you still get a nice clean cut.
I’ll most definitely think about investing in something like that though! I only have an Adana 8x5 so small runs will be what I’m mostly doing :)
Cheers and keep posting if anyone else has thoughts!!